Tearing down to build up: Demolishing Polk's World War II-era buildings necessary for new growth
Ron Blanco sprays water to keep dust down as heavy equipment operator John Smith tears down the old Civilian Personnel Advisory Center on Radio Road June 8. It takes about three days to completely demolish, remove and restore a building site.

You might think demolishing a building is easy: unhook the electricity, disconnect the water and sewer, get behind the wheel of a bulldozer and knock it all down.

You'd be partially right, but there is a whole lot more that has to take place - before and after you mount the dozer - before the job is complete.

Timothy Bullock, project superintendent for Charter Environmental, has taken part in the demolition of 74 buildings on Fort Polk since February. Charter was awarded the contract to demolish the World War II-era buildings on Fort Polk by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Corps' facilities reduction program. The company has also demolished buildings at Fort Rucker, Ala., Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Gordon, Ga. and Fort Bragg, N.C.

Bullock said the first step in preparing a building for demolition is to cut and cap the utilities.
"This includes electrical, gas and water tie-ins," Bullock said.

Next comes the removal of hazardous waste.
"That includes light bulbs, ballast and recovering Freon from air conditioning units," he said. "Also, if there is anything like asbestos or lead paint, we remove it."

Once all of the hazardous material has been removed, the heavy equipment takes over, tearing down a structure that has withstood hurricanes, tornadoes and Soldiers - all capable of destruction in their own right - in no time at all.

On June 8, Bullock's crew began the task of tearing down the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center's old three-building compound on Fort Polk's Radio Road. By 3 p.m., the buildings lay in ruins and the next phase of demolition was taking place - loading out the building remnants to an off-site facility.
"We also have to recycle any concrete," Bullock said.

Once everything has been removed, Bullock said it's time for restoration.
"We fill in all of the holes and regrade the lot," he said. "And last, we hydroseed the area."
Bullock estimated it would take about five days to compete the CPAC job.
"Once we get started, it doesn't take long," he said.

As you might expect, caution and safety are key words in demolishing buildings.
"We spray water over the site the entire time to make sure dust doesn't become a health hazard," Bullock said. "We also have spotters for our equipment operators at all times."

While Bullock said you're likely to find anything from homeless people to critters in buildings scheduled to be demolished, that hasn't been the case on Fort Polk.
"We haven't even seen a cockroach," he said. "We were warned about the possibility of snakes or mice, but we've not seen either."

Bullock said the only threat on Fort Polk has come from bees. "Some of the buildings had their windows left open and the bees got inside and made a hive," he said. "We'd start tearing down a building then everyone would start running because the bees were coming after us."

The only "critters" Bullock said he's seen was a family of deer.
"It was a doe and a couple of fawns," he said. "They stood about 50 to 60 feet away and watched the whole process."

Bullock chalked up the lack of rats, snakes and other pests to good housekeeping.
"They really seem to do a good job of keeping things clean around here," he said. "For the most part, the buildings we've demolished had all of the paper and food items removed. When you do that, that usually takes care of pests."

There are still a few more buildings to be demolished on Fort Polk. Bullock said when his company finishes the job it will be hard to remember what the area looked like.
"Our job is not just demolition," he said. "It's to make it look like the building was never there in the first place."

Page last updated Fri June 12th, 2009 at 11:50